I Kings 19: 4-8; Gospel–John 6: 41 – 51
The two Books of Kings are historical chronicles of Israel from the end of King David’s Reign until after the fall of Judah, (from 970 B.C. to 538 B.C). At the time of Elijah the kings turned away from the Lord and worshipped pagan gods. Elijah is the leading prophet of this period. After a series of prophetic and miraculous events he was sent to King Ahab who refused to listen to his call to return to the Lord. This ended with the dramatic event of Elijah taking on the 400 hundred prophets of Baal atop Mount Carmel, and defeating them. This leads us to the portion of Elijah we hear this weekend.
After Elijah’s amazing fete of faith in taking down the prophets of Baal, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are determined to kill him. He flees into the desert, and prays for death. God provides food and water for him, and an angel tells him to eat so that he can complete his journey. Elijah gets up and continues on his journey.
Being a prophet is not a call to fame and glamour. It usually involves hardship, persecution and even death. If any praise or honor is given to a prophet it is usually long after they have passed on from this world. Two recent examples of prophetic voices are Saint Faustina Kowalska, and Blessed Oscar Romera, martyr.
Saint Faustina was blessed with the private revlelation that ultimately led to the Divine Mercy Devotion. At the time of her death in 1938, she was seen by many as a fanatic. It was not until her diaries were read that people began to understand why she spoke and acted as she did. She was given the message to call people to repentance and to trust in the Divine Mercy of God. Her spiritual directors had told her to write the revelations down, but to speak to no one of them. She probably wondered how this message was to get out, but she was obedient. After her death the message and the Divine Mercy Devotion quickly spread and on April 30th, 2000, sixty-two years after her death, she was canonized, and the Sunday following Easter was set as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Blessed Oscar Romera was Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. When he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador the government he was considered to be one who did not enter into controversy. To the government he was seen as not threat, while the priests and advocates of the poor saw him as not giving them much support. However, in 1977, a priest friend of his who was working with the poor was killed. This deeply affected Archbishop Romero to the point where he changed his approach to the poor and began to speak boldly about the injustices that they faced. He grew in boldness, calling the government to heed to the message of Christ in their approach to the poor. He was gunned down while celebrating Mass in 1980. Thirty-five years later, on May 23rd, 2015, he was beatified.
Elijah, Saint Faustina and Blessed Oscar Romera serve as example to us. Even if we are not gifted with prophecy, we are called to heed the challenges the prophets give, and to change accordingly. Sometimes this change is difficult. Presently many people are struggling with Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Be Praised.” It might help us to view it as we would a prophetic word that challenges us to make major changes in our world view in order to be faithful stewards of the gift of creation. Like Elijah let us get up and continue on our journey.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.